Khairy can only dethrone UMNO’s Mr President with ample grassroots support

Editor’s Note: Slamming the proposal by over 100 UMNO division leaders for the posts of president and deputy president to go uncontested, former Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin has called for a “stop to the madness” for party president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi “is brave and ready to fight”.

That aside, his claims on the presence of “imported (phantom) voters” during the voting process to pass the motion of no-contest for UMNO’s two top posts has been shot down by party secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan and its information chief Datuk Isham Jalil and Sungai Besar UMNO chief Datuk Seri Jamal Yunos who wanted Khairy to be suspended for his “extremely embarrassing” claims.

Against such backdrop, what does the future hold for Khairy in UMNO considering that he is being pushed more and more to one lonely corner?


FORMER health minister Khairy Jamaluddin seems to have the penchant for opening his mouth at the wrong time. There is an adage that even a fish gets into trouble when it opens its mouth and this aptly applies to the former Rembau MP.

Prior to the 15th General Election (GE15), Khairy had boldly declared himself as a prime ministerial candidate. The aftermath of this declaration was disastrous for him especially after his defeat in the contest for the Sungai Buloh parliament seat despite being touted as a favourite.

His PR team could have given him the wrong advice as the premature and rash announcement caused him to be defeated. He had seriously miscalculated his standing among UMNO members and the voters.

Recently, he had stated that he will support Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s unity government if he were to be made UMNO president.

Another rash statement that was made to invoke support prior to the UMNO general assembly which had now come and gone. Re-collect that Anwar and Khairy have been embroiled in the court given Khairy was sued by Anwar for defamation.

Khairy seems to have his head in the clouds when assessing his chances of landing the top post in UMNO. He clearly does not command grassroot support in UMNO and the suave and debonair politician might as well kiss his chances goodbye of landing the top post in UMNO forever.

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s position as the standing UMNO president remains as solid as the rock of Gibraltar as he has the support of 130 UMNO divisions in the country.

Khairy Jamaluddin (Left) and Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi greeting each other at the recently concluded UMNO general assembly (Pic credit: Malaysiakini)

Khairy has to accept things as they are and that he can never be successful in his quest of becoming the head honcho in UMNO.

Head in clouds

In all fairness, Khairy had performed commendably during his tenure as health minister during the Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s administration although that was somehow tainted by corrupt charges in the procurement of vaccines.

He had come out of the shadows of his father-in-law, former prime minister (PM) Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi but the once leader of the ‘fourth-floor boys’ seems to be unable to connect with the UMNO grassroots.

Maybe his Oxford background has caused him to be distanced from the grassroots. Apart from his health portfolio, he was previously the Youth and Sports Minister (2013-2018) and the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister in the Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration under former PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (March 2020-August 2021).

He had successfully defended his Rembau seat for two terms before being ‘parachuted’ to Sungai Buloh which marked his political demise in GE15. He does not have the best of relationships with Zahid and has been often critical of his leadership.

This could have been sparked by the fact that the 47-year-old youthful leader had challenged Zahid previously for the coveted UMNO presidency in June 2018 only to lose out with a vote count of 99-61 while fellow contender Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah only received 30 votes.

Khairy’s future

In an interview with business radio station, BFM, prior to GE15, Khairy had no qualms in saying that he wants to be the next PM. He is still young and if his wish comes true, he will be the youngest PM the country ever had.

It seems that his only folly remains his epic failure in building support among the grassroots in UMNO.

In all fairness to Khairy, it is difficult to read the mood in UMNO. A leader who is tainted with corruption charges such as Zahid enjoys widespread support whereas a capable minister such as Khairy is ‘unpopular’ at the party level.

However, Khairy cannot be discounted all together. What might work in his favour is the forging of smart strategic alliances. His warming up to Anwar seems to be a step in this direction.

Working harder with the grassroots may turn his waning political fortunes. He has to reach out to them and make them believe that he is a viable and all-seasoned leader.

It is unfortunate for him to have had to swap his Rembau seat for Sungai Buloh which cost him dearly. It undid all the good work he had done as health minister previously.

Will Khairy be PM someday? In terms of stature and capabilities, there is no doubt that Khairy is an able PM candidate.

If he can sort out his disconnect with UMNO grassroots, he can be on his way. That aside, he also has to exercise his caution when criticising Zahid. His comments could drive a wedge with UMNO grassroots who are staunch supporters of Zahid.

He is only 47 and has a long way to go. If he plays his cards right, doubtlessly his PM ambition can be realised one day. His choice of alliances could very well be the trump card in landing the prized trophy.

UMNO is severely wounded after GE15 where it managed to win only 26 parliamentary seats – hence, culminating in Barisan Nasional (BN) worst performance in the coalition’s 66-year history.

It needs a makeover and people such as Khairy have what it takes to start a re-engineering of the party. – Jan 16, 2023


Ranjit Singh is a Focus Malaysia viewer.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

Main pic credit: The Star

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